MALIBU -- Veteran comic character actor Henry Gibson, whose career included the 1960's hit "Laugh-In," and more recently " King of the Hill," died Monday.
Gibson died at his home in Malibu after a brief battle with cancer. He was 73.
He graduated from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and served in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence officer.
After his discharge, he developed an act in which he portrayed a Southern accented poet.
His stage name may have been a play on dramatist Henrik Ibsen, and he often pronounced his name as if it were "Ibsen", particularly when performing as "The Poet".
Gibson's breakthrough came in 1968 when he was cast as a member of the original ensemble of NBC's top-rated "Laugh-In," on which he performed for three seasons.
Each week, a giant flower in his hand, he recited a signature poem, introducing them with the catch phrase that became his signature: "A Poem, by Henry Gibson."
Gibson appeared in four films by Robert Altman: The Long Goodbye (starring Elliott Gould), Nashville (starring Ned Beatty and Keith Carradine), as well as A Perfect Couple and Health. He also appeared in The Incredible Shrinking Woman (starring Lily Tomlin). He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Nashville and won the National Society of Film Critics award for his role of country music singer Haven Hamilton.
Gibson spent three years as part of the Laugh-In television show's cast. He often played was "The Poet," reciting poems with "sharp satirical or political themes".
Gibson would emerge from behind a stage flat, wearing a Nehru jacket and 'hippie' beads and holding an outlandishly large artificial flower He would state the Title of poem -- by Henry Gibson", bow stiffly from the waist, recite his poem, and return behind the flat.
Gibson also regularly appeared in the "Cocktail Party" segments as a Catholic priest, sipping tea.
He would put the cup on the saucer, recite his one-liner in a grave and somber tone, then go back to sipping tea. He also made recurring appearances in the 1969-1974 anthology Love, American Style.
Gibson is remembered for his roles in two feature films. In the 1989 Tom Hanks/Joe Dante comedy, The 'Burbs, Gibson played the villain.
In 1980 he played the leader of the " Illinois Nazis" in the John Landis film The Blues Brothers. Most younger audiences associate him with this film in particular due to its popularity.
He made a brief appearance in Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia as an eccentric barfly. He also worked frequently as a voice actor in animation, most notably portraying Wilbur the pig in the popular children's movie Charlotte's Web (1973).
He also worked on the cartoon The Grim Adventures Of Billy & Mandy as Lord Pain.
Gibson re-teamed with director Dante a few years later when Gremlins 2 was released in 1990. He performed a cameo as the office worker who is caught taking a smoking break on camera and fired by the sadistic boss. He later had a leading role in a Season 5 episode of Stargate SG-1 entitled "The Sentinel", as the character Marul.
Gibson's most recently roles were alongside Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in the 2005 comedy hit Wedding Crashers, and as supporting character Judge Clark Brown on the TV show Boston Legal.